Cameroon's Awful 'Breast Ironing' Problem

Like many nations, Cameroon has a teen pregnancy problem that isn't being adequately addressed. The solution many have turned to is utterly horrifying: In an attempt to make their daughters less desirable to boys, mothers are ironing their breasts with hot objects to prevent them from developing.

In a report on the practice that affects one in four girls in Cameroon, CNN interviews Grace Techu, a mother who began ironing her daughter's breasts before school every day when she was nine. Techu used a hot pestle heated in the fire, but others use hot stones or coconut shells to beat at girls' breasts. This is supposed to discourage the growth of breast tissue, but all it does is severly injure girls. According to a State Department human rights report, breast ironing often leaves girls with, "burns, deformities, and psychological problems."

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Techu clearly sees breast ironing as a loving act. Mothers do this because they want their girls to be able to stay in school longer, rather than dropping out due to unplanned pregnancy. Girls who start developing at a young age are particularly at risk, and doctors say girls in Cameroon are starting puberty earlier thanks to improved diets.

Thankfully, several charities have launched campaigns in recent years to provide sex education and teach people that breast ironing doesn't prevent pregnancy. In addition to tackling traditional practices, activists have to fight the idea (which goes far beyond Cameroon) that efforts to control sexuality should be taken out on women's bodies.

Breast Ironing Tradition Targeted In Cameroon [CNN]